Jun 20, 2012, 1:24 AM EDT
One year ago, the Miami Heat were ahead 2-1 in the finals against Dallas and up 9 points in Game 4. Then they learned some very painful lessons.
This year, the Heat were again up 2-1 and this time were down 94-92 with four minutes remaining. Adding to their woes, LeBron James was on the bench after having to be carried off the court with quad cramps.
But this time Miami turned out to be the ones teaching the lessons of execution under pressure — they put together a 12-4 run to close the game run that included a dramatic three by a gimpy LeBron, Mario Chalmers stepping up, plus both Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade making plays. The Thunder had Russell Westbrook and not much else and that was not enough.
The result was a 104-98 Heat win that has Miami up 3-1 and now one win away from an NBA championship.
This series feels over and it may happen Thursday night in Game 5. The Thunder locker room after the game was painfully quiet, their body language was that of a team that just took a blow to the gut. Dejected doesn’t do it justice. They looked defeated. They are learning hard lessons— ones Miami learned last year — and while they will not roll over, you could sense they know how this will end.
The Heat have matured and talked about taking nothing for granted.
“There will be an incredible amount of noise on the outside and we need to stay focused on the moment,” Spoelstra said. To a man every Heat player said something similar about not losing focus — it’s a lesson they learned the hard way last year.
Game 4 started out with a desperate Thunder team racing out to a 13-3 run behind a Westbrook, who Wade described as “playing on another level.” He started fast and finished fast, ending up with 43 points on just 32 shots. He blitzed the Heat defense and they had no answer because his jumper was falling, especially when he could get to the elbow.
“We missed some chippies, ones we normally make, and they came out from a ferocious intensity,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of the start.
But the Heat closed that gap in the second quarter and it was a tight game the rest of the way. Kevin Durant added 28 points but no other Thunder player broke into double digits. That is where the game was lost. Once again James Harden was just bad — 8 points on 10 shots with twice as many turnovers (4) as assists (2). The Thunder cannot win without him, he is their X factor.
Westbrook was not perfect — he made a bad foul late. Miami was up three with 13 seconds left and 4 seconds left on the shot clock for Miami when there was a jump ball. When Chalmers won the jump ball Westbrook fouled him instantly, thinking he had to, not realizing the Heat had to rush a shot. Chalmers hit the free throws and that was pretty much it.
“It was just a miscommunication on my part,” Westbrook said of not knowing the shot clock. “Nothing I can do about it now.”
Some fans will smack Westbrook around online for that play, but they miss the point. Without his monster night the Thunder are not even close in this game.
Oklahoma City lost a game by inches — a block here, some of Durant’s threes falling (1-for-5), Thabo Sefolosha missing a wide-open corner three late, any of that changes the game. The Thunder made it to the finals, but they have been out-executed down the stretch the last three games. Coaches like to call it a hit-or-miss league and right now the Thunder are missing late and the Heat are making. Miami is getting balance — Chalmers and Wade had 25 points each.
Miami players can smell it now. The Thunder will not roll over but it will be a real test to see what kind of emotion they can play with on Thursday night.
Miami is gutting out, grinding out wins. That’s what champions do.
May 21, 2013, 5:28 PM EDT
Bryan Colangelo is still going to collect a paycheck from the Raptors. But he’s not going to have sway over the basketball side of the operations — and that’s what matters most to Raptors fans. Tim Leiweke, the new CEO of Raptors owner Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, confirmed previous reports Tuesday on a conference…
May 21, 2013, 4:51 PM EDT
SEASON RECORDS Indiana 49-33 (Third seed in East) Miami 66-16 (First seed in East) PLAYOFF RECORDS Indiana 8-4 (beat Atlanta 4-2 in the first round, New York 4-2 in the second) Miami: 8-1 (swept Milwaukee in first round 4-0, beat Chicago 4-1 in the second) SEASON SERIES Indiana won the regular season series 2-1 with…
May 21, 2013, 3:34 PM EDT
Phil Jackson was on the Dan Patrick show Tuesday — Jackson’s new book “11 Rings” is on sale as of today — and sat down for a long interview. I mean long — this is nearly 30 minutes, so you should only listen to this at work and not spend your valuable personal time on…
May 21, 2013, 3:07 PM EDT
Clippers owner Donald Sterling created a little stir when he was near the court watching Game 1 between the Spurs and Grizzlies Sunday — he didn’t bother to attend all of his own team’s playoff games, why was he suddenly at this one? Was he scouting potential coaches such as the Grizzlies Lionel Hollins or…
May 21, 2013, 2:31 PM EDT
We don’t need more people like Kevin Durant in basketball, we need more people like Kevin Durant on the planet. Kevin Durant has donated $1 million to Red Cross disaster relief efforts in the wake of a devastating tornado that ripped through the suburbs of Oklahoma City, leaving 24 dead and devastating the community. The…
May 21, 2013, 2:03 PM EDT
The NBA lottery is totally fixed, but in the interest of appeasing the NBA, we’re going to share the odds the league says each team has of receiving each pick. We will add that it’s been a long time since there was this little buzz around the NBA about the lottery — because nobody really…
May 21, 2013, 1:15 PM EDT
A good coach always has his players’ backs in public. Even if he hasn’t coached them in a decade. Enter legendary Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, who like a lot of people in the great state of New York was watching Carmelo Antony lead the Knicks to eventual second round playoff elimination this year. You’ll remember…
May 21, 2013, 11:57 AM EDT
This isn’t about Grizzlies’ fans or Spurs’ fans. This is about every city having a few complete idiots. The Sherriff’s Office in Bexar County – which includes San Antonio — is investigating a death threat leveled at Tony Parker during the Spurs/Grizzlies Game 1 Sunday, reports NBC’s WOAI in the city. The Bexar County Sheriff’s…
May 21, 2013, 11:43 AM EDT
Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and… David West? What could go wrong? David West has been a rock-solid veteran big man for the Pacers this season and has talked repeatedly about how much he loved playing there this year. But the NBA is a business and West is an unrestricted free agent this summer. Teams are…
May 21, 2013, 11:11 AM EDT
Kobe Bryant thinks this Lakers roster can work. Well, he at least thinks his chance at a much-coveted sixth ring is more likely if the Lakers bring back two of the top big men in the game, as opposed to having just one and restructuring the lineup to be closer to what Mike D’Antoni prefers.…
May 21, 2013, 10:40 AM EDT
The NBA lottery is fixed. There’s no question about it. Just as last year’s draft order was determined by a David Stern-led conspiracy, this year’s will be determined the same way. Think about it. If the NBA lottery really were legitimate, why not conduct the draw publically rather than in a back room? If the…
May 21, 2013, 9:55 AM EDT
The Charlotte Hornets became the New Orleans Hornets, which became the New Orleans Pelicans, allowing the Charlotte Bobcats to become the Charlotte Hornets. Got it? A few days after news leaked, the plan will become official today. Steve Reed of the Associated Press: Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan is changing his team’s name to the…
May 21, 2013, 9:32 AM EDT
You can cross Stan Van Gundy off your coaching lists. The former Magic and Heat coach was on The David Baumann Show on 1080 The Team in Orlando and said he would not be coaching anywhere next season. He called it a family decision. He added that a few teams reached out to him but…
May 21, 2013, 9:03 AM EDT
Knicks GM Glen Grunwald wanted to sign Pablo Prigioni to a two-year deal, but the 35-year-old point guard and NBA rookie was only taking a one-year offer. That was practical — he signed for the veteran’s minimum and if he showed he belonged he could get a better deal. But it also may mean he…
May 21, 2013, 8:00 AM EDT
Game 2 is not going to look like Game 1. Memphis is not going to get its doors blown off from the opening tip as happened in their Game 1 loss. You can expect better pick and roll defense out of Memphis. You can also expect better ball movement and more Zach Randolph. You can…
May 21, 2013, 2:02 AM EDT
From the start, there was one thing most likely to keep Mike D’Antoni from returning as Lakers coach — free agent Dwight Howard. It may not have been that direct — and it may not change who is the Lakers coach next season — but apparently Howard let Lakers management know exactly how he feels…
May 21, 2013, 1:19 AM EDT
We need a game in this series so we can talk about basketball and not this ridiculous game of telephone. As we explained before, LeBron James took umbrage at something a reporter told him Pacers’ coach Frank Vogel said — except Vogel never said it. What Vogel said was, “They’re the next team that’s in…
May 20, 2013, 11:15 PM EDT
If you’re like me, you have been transfixed by the tragic events that have unfolded around Oklahoma City on Monday, where a monster tornado has left death and devastation in its wake. The pictures out of schools in that city are heart wrenching. The thoughts of all of us here at PBT are with the…
May 20, 2013, 9:30 PM EDT
Just three seasons ago, the Golden State Warriors were a 26-win team with Monta Ellis and Corey Maggette as their two leading scorers — this was a team in need of a radical overhaul. Enter new ownership willing to invest in winning, new players to go with then rookie Stephen Curry, a new coach in…
May 20, 2013, 6:55 PM EDT
Let’s start out here by saying take this all with a grain of salt. People’s descriptions of fights after a bar closes often do not match reality. But a pair of brothers in Oregon told television station KGW that they snapped a picture of Blazers point guard Damian Lillard walking to his car outside a…
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